Next week on the 10th of December, I will be marking my 3 month anniversary of being in Nairobi. How do I know this so exactly? Well it is the day my visa runs out. I am still on a tourist visa though my work permit application (the quadriplicate forms, each filled-out by hand – I think this may be worthy of a later blog post) is sitting somewhere in the Department of Immigration. To renew my visa for another 3 months, I will have to leave the EAC. Oh the irony when you are working specifically to integrate the region more.
Anyway, as it is my 3 month mark, I think it is also an appropriate time to take stock of where I lie in terms of the goals I set myself in my first blog post.
- Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro… well let us just say that I plan on joining a gym when I get back from the Christmas holidays.
- I still only speak kidogo Swahili, but hope to take up formalised lessons when I come back from the Christmas holidays (apparently I am not good at following through on my “teach yourself Swahili” course)
- Visiting all 5 EAC Countries – finally, something I can report some success on. In the last 3 weeks I have acquired visas from 3 of the Partner States leaving only 2 more to go before this goal has been completed. And of all the goals, I do think this is the one I am most likely to complete J
That brings me right to my most recent trip – Rwanda. Again, this was a spur of the moment decision when a space became free on a trip a friend was organising. And as you can probably tell from the last blog posts, I am really bad at saying no to travelling and trips.
However, this trip was easier said than done as apparently Rwanda changed its visa regulations on the 1st of November and so it is no longer possible to just buy a visa at the airport, as it used to be. Luckily for us, a friend of a friend had just travelled to Rwanda a week before and she was informed of the new procedure, when she was trying to enter the country. There is now an online form, which you have to fill out to get approval to be able to buy the visa at the airport. It is great they are trying to mechanise the system, but it makes it slightly difficult when the online form does not work. Either way, I finally got onto the site with the form and filled it out, attaching a PDF version of my invitation letter. You then receive a confirmation, but have to wait for your letter confirming you are permitted to buy a visa at the airport. They say online that it will take 3 days to process. They were not kidding. I got my visa acceptance letter at 11pm the day before I was leaving (clearly someone was working late). It said:
“You are most welcome to the country of a thousand hills and a million smiles!”
Thank you Rwanda and thank you to my friend who had a printer and could print it off for me at 5am in the morning.
So the next day we set off from Nairobi to Kigali. Flying there we got some stunning views of Lake Victoria, the world’s biggest Lake:
And here a bird’s eye view (well, plane’s eye view) of Rwanda:
From Kigali, my friend’s friends and their two adorable little sons picked us up and we drove for about 2.5 hours to Kibuye, a small town on Lake Kivu. Lake Kivu is the lake the forms the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. You can literally see the Congo on the other side of the lake. The Lake, as with most other parts of this side of the world, is absolutely breathtaking. You can swim in it without a problem – in fact, there is not much other wildlife in the Lake as it is full of methane from Mount Nyiragongo. This is the volcano that lies on the Congo side of the Lake. Perhaps this is why it is so sparsely populated. Another reason may be due to its very sad history. During the Rwandan Genocide, it was the site of one of the largest massacres – over 90% of the Tutsi’s in Kibuye were killed. Swimming in Lake Kivu, you find yourself thinking, how can a place of such beauty (see below) become a place of such tragedy as well.
This weekend I am off to finally see South Sudan, something I have wanted to do for a long time. Watch this space for a detailed description of how to acquire a South Sudan travel permit (entertainment guaranteed) and of course my impressions and pictures of Juba. Oh and as a further sneak preview, upcoming blog posts will include a feature on Nairobi’s City Preachers (an unfortunately not so rare, but definitely entertaining breed).